Life isn’t always about water beagles, laughs, and sunsets. There are moments for even the most optimistic people, whose mission to live life fully in pursuit of happiness is darkened with a cloud of self-doubt, regret, and misfortune. I am, by far, the happiest of all people, but I put on enough of a show to fake it till I make it and that trait is coming in handy right now.
On social media, people like to post the wonderful times, pretty pictures and things they think are worthwhile for other people to look at. I am no different. The reason that I look at and share pictures and information is to connect with people. I strongly believe that you are who you surround yourself with so my sad or angry posts are kept to a bare minimum and I have no problem hiding posts of others when they take on a repetitively negative turn (especially during elections). There are times, however, when the negative side of life needs to be included. Otherwise, big pieces of the story would be missing. So if you don’t want to hear a sad story about my car accident and the indecision and fear it brought to me, move along to my next happy adventurous post.
I am very fortunate to live the way that I do, and to have had the opportunities to experience boat crossings, ski trips, and impromptu chili cook-off judging. I am proud of those sunsets, crazy food pics, beaches and smiling faces. I hope they bring joy to others and allow those who don’t have those opportunities to see something new. I am amazed and grateful for the birthdays, anniversaries, and happy kids in Halloween costumes that my friends post. Their posts allow a glimpse into a different life than mine and the ability to stay connected from afar.
These past couple of days I have struggled with how to share some news that I haven’t found the sunny side of just yet. After Tennessee, I began the “very-unplanned” portion of my road trip and have not been able to share it with anyone but my closest family because I don’t yet know how to deal with it all.
While in South Carolina, thinking about what I would do after Lake House No. 2, I decided to visit my wonderful 90-year young Great Aunt in Indiana. I had not planned to go to Indiana and felt a little odd even saying that I would be going there on my journey of exploration. After all, being in my home state where many of my friends and family still live, I knew there would be more people there than I would like to see than anywhere else I would be going. But this is not a homecoming trip and my time and money are not unlimited. It is not a stay with whoever will put me up kind of trip. It is a time to explore and push myself to discover what I need and where I need to find it, whatever ‘it’ was, kind of trip. But when I thought about how close I would be to my Great Aunt, and that I hadn’t seen her for years, there was no doubt in my mind that even if it was just a lunch date I would make it a point to see her.
The drive from Dandridge, TN to Straughn, IN was to be the longest leg of this unplanned trip thus far with just under 6 hours. I stopped at what was to be the half way point and refilled on gas and coffee just as traffic was starting to get thick with tourists returning to the north from their summer vacations. Stop and go traffic was the norm and there were quite a few heavy footed braking episodes. The last one, however, was the most memorable.
I saw the line of cars stopping in front me but the lady eating an egg salad sandwich in the 15 passenger van behind me, not so much. She plowed into me a moment after I noticed her and must have been going 60 or 70 mph. I’m honestly not even sure she had a chance to brake before she realized what was happening.
Last year, I was hit in Miami, three blocks from my home, early in the morning after yoga. It was a young girl in her twenties who was arguing with her mother on the phone and also didn’t see anyone stopped. She hit me fairly hard and I hit the person in front of me and they hit the person in front of them. It shook me up for quite a while. I’m talking days.
This new accident, outside of Georgetown, Kentucky was much harder. My head smacked against the seat back as the possessions that filled my car floated around me – I am traveling with no end point remember? The impact was so hard that one of the first things I noticed when checking to see if I was still in one piece, was my sunglasses on the floor under my feet and the hooks for the visors bent cleanly back. I hadn’t even been using the visors so the magnitude of the hit must have pushed them out and then back hard enough to bend the plastic. I am happy to say that aside from being quite sore, I have yet to have any real issues with my health.
My first reaction was to call 911. I don’t think I even knew what I was doing before the dispatcher answered. I had to think about whether I was actually alright as she questioned me. I hadn’t yet gotten out of the car to check on the other driver. I told dispatch to send the police, and if we needed an ambulance I would call back. I was shaking uncontrollably, and by this time, as per my usual emotional self, crying my ugly cry – my cry is not one of those cute ones people want to console but rather a sobbing, face wrenching cry of despair that keeps people moving quickly past for fear of catching.
That feeling of confusion, helplessness and uncertainty didn’t leave me. It didn’t leave me after I spoke with the other driver or after I spoke with the police or after I spoke with my family, and barely even after I got in the tow truck with the burly driver. I’m usually quite detailed, but I couldn’t think of how to take care of myself at that moment. It’s much easier for me to take care of other people as a general rule, but a conscious ability to take care of myself wasn’t even an option at this point. I kept my sunglasses on as I asked more questions than necessary to get all the details …whether I needed them or not.
Fortunately, I remembered that one of my mother’s nursing school friends, who I had grown up visiting with every summer of my childhood, lived in Lexington. So as the police officer put together the details and hurriedly got us a tow truck to get us off the interstate, I had her call them to see if they could meet me once I figured out where my car and I were going. They saved me and took me in like I was their own, just like everyone else I planned to meet or have met along my journey thus far. It was wonderful to see them and catch up with their daughter and her family. However, it was hard to sit and eat a wonderful dinner and chat when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry.
Was it hard because I was thankful to be alive? That’s part of it, sure. Not that this hit was the worst accident ever, but it does help to remind one that life is sometimes unfair and can be forever changed in a matter of seconds. Was it because now, in addition to spending every extra moment looking for a way to make a living or where to live, I now need to deal with insurance companies, car rentals, auto repairs or car salesmen? All of these were reasons to curl up in a ball and cry but the biggest one of all is the lack of control it made me feel.
By the time I made it to my room that night, I could no longer cope. I couldn’t really even cry. I had emails to answer and an expectation to set for my colleagues for the unknown of the next few days. The pain and soreness were setting in and a Tylenol PM helped me to push the laptop to the floor and fall into a weird but restful sleep that I know would otherwise have been impossible.
Even 24 hours later, I sit here awake for four hours after my usual bedtime writing down this experience. I will eventually share this with those who care about where my path takes me, good or bad. I know now that I am almost ready to handle any calls or texts or even comments that might send me back into that emotional state of indecision as to whether this was all a bad idea, a bad dream, or the best adventure ever.
Regardless, what is going to happen will happen and I intend to stay strong and let my intuition be my guide. If the journey takes me back to my family (which right now it is definitely not!) then that would be okay. If I get an even smaller car, or a camper or decide not to get a car at all and go overseas, then that would be okay, too. Because it’s all out in front of me and the possibilities are endless.
I have a feeling that I better become familiar with a lack of complete control and will now begin a conscious effort to embrace that.